I'm preparing to travel, again. Travel and I have a tortured relationship: when I was very young, I used to plan elaborate trips using National Geographic and a battered atlas. When I came to a place where a page was torn, I would fabricate roads, rivers, tiny towns drizzled like fudge sauce over the snowy sweetness of imaginary land. I was obsessed with islands. I wanted -viscerally, with a strength I couldn't muster for dessert or Disney World- to drive to Alaska.
Now I bend over backwards to avoid leaving home. I'm terrified of flying. If I have to drive somewhere, anywhere, I often conclude it's not worth it. I've dodged workshops, weddings, visits to relatives, and countless social events. I still haven't figured out why I recently declined a Fulbright, but every now and then I hope it wasn't because I dreaded the transatlantic flight.
I'm packing my bags next week: IN-DE-WA-IN-IL-IN. I made the arrangements far enough in advance that the trip seemed like a glorious adventure; now, of course, it's a slavering, beady-eyed Tyrannosaurus Rex stumping over the horizon. As I steel myself, struggling to hold still like a patient anticipating the plunge of the hypodermic, I goggle at the disconnect. Why do I want to travel; why do I loathe it?
A thousand reasons, of course. Of which here's one: sometimes I think we've corrupted travel. Now it's about hopping a flight, or merging into a vast river of traffic. It's about moving yourself as opposed to being moved. You navigate through a city, to a hotel, up the mountains, over the channel, across the Atlantic -propelling yourself forward in a cloud of prepositions.
Possibly travel should be about stillness. Staring out the window of the train; flat on your back in a strange bed; listening to weather. Feeling where you are on the map.